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‘Essence’ and sensibility
Monday, November 26, 2007

Not since his major show last year at the Ayala Museum to celebrate his 30th year as a professional artist has Ramon Orlina embarked on a one-man show. He has been content to contribute to group shows and has kept himself busy with numerous local and foreign commissions as well as his family life.

To end the year with a flourish, Orlina boldly embarks on not one, but two major back-to-back shows that will comprise approximately 50 combined pieces. Few artists, if any, can successfully mount such a venture and still be able to sell out both shows. But then again, few artists are nearly as successful or as in demand as Ramon Orlina.

The artist has chosen conflicting and contrasting themes for his two shows. The first show, “Essence,” is comprised of figurative sculptures with many of the pieces highlighting the human form.  Familiar themes, such as the female breast in the “Ningning” series, martial arts forms and other human figures, take center stage in this show.

Pieces of interest include “Great Expectations,” a nude figure of a pregnant female torso carved out of bronze Asahi glass.  And my personal favorite, “Maganda,” which depicts a female head bursting forth in reference to the tale of “Malakas at Maganda,” which is the Filipino fable explaining the origin of man and woman.

The artist also exhibits “Picasso Gemini II (2/7).” This second in the series of seven is significant as it is the first sculpture he has executed in cast bronze, a new medium that Orlina has recently ventured into.

Perhaps most appropriate for the season, however, is “Nativity” which is composed of three individual pieces and depicts the Holy Family in the nativity scene.

Closely following the close of “Essence” is Orlina’s second show “Abstract Emeralds.” This exhibit, in contrast to the first, features works that, as the title of the show implies, are abstracted and non-figurative pieces carved out of the trademark green glass that Orlina has become so known for.

Some of the notable pieces include “Emerald City” where round shapes cut out of the glass play off one another and give the piece an interesting perception of depth and texture; whereas “Sprouting Seed” represents the typical smooth and free-flowing abstractions that have been associated with Orlina’s non-representational works.

Without a doubt, however, the highlight of the show is the exhibition of “Sweet Fruit of the Vine.” This piece, which is unfortunately “for exhibition only,” is carved out of amber crystal, which Orlina specially imports from China set atop a rising pair of arms carved from bronze Asahi glass. “Sweet Fruit of the Vine” references the process of extracting wine from grapes as it is a commissioned piece that will be placed in the wine room of the soon-to-open St. Regis Hotel in Singapore.

“Essence” is on view at Art Verite, second floor, Serendra, Fort Bonifacio until Nov. 30. “Abstract Emeralds” is on view at Galerie Joaquin, 371 P. Guevarra St., San Juan from Dec. 5 to 19.

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